I re-read this yesterday as a way of keeping awake post night shift (switching one’s body clock around can be a pain in the neck. Sometimes literally). It’s a challenging reading mood–I need something to engage me without too much brain-work, but not stupid enough that I lose my very limited patience. And what do you know? Magic Breaks worked.
At first, there were doubts, largely arising out of the structure and pacing of the initial pages. Magic Breaks opens with a ‘Thank you to the readers,’ which, while kind, seemed misplaced and more appropriate to end notes. It helps to have the knowledge that this was originally conceived as the final book in the series arc. However, the wild popularity of the series and the development of a number of storylines has meant that the authors could legitimately continue to play in their world and so another three book arc is in the works. Gratitude is followed by a listing of ‘Cast of characters,’ clearly misplaced. If you haven’t read all the books by now, book seven is a lousy place to start. If one must include it, an appendix is most appropriate. Finally, we get to the meat of the book, or so it seems: chapter one. Only it isn’t; it’s pretty much a short story that helps fill in details for those who might be new to the series with a segue into the beginning of the plot at the end. Again, can I stress, lousy place to start? I don’t know; I don’t market these things. It is the debut of the first hardcover in the series, so I understand the publisher positioning it to appeal to a new audience. The first chapter was pre-released on the Andrews’ website, so it served as a nice teaser/short for fans. I just wish it would have been a little less obvious that the beginning wasn’t geared to new readers or as a marketing tool.
So when the plot actually starts, Pack Leader Curran is called out of town to meet with an outlying wolf-pack who owns a silver mine and is indiscreet about buyers. Oh-so coincidentally, he is gone during the mid-winter Conclave, the meeting between the opposing factions of The People and the Pack. Curran expects no trouble, so of course the reader realizes there will be plenty. At the Conclave, Roland’s second-in-command Hugh appears, dumping a murdered vampire navigator’s body on the group and accusing the Pack of the murder. Kate conceals shock at Hugh’s reappearance, endeavors to discover the details of the crime and navigates a politically acceptable solution, all while worrying about Curran’s safety. At the tension-packed (ha-ha) follow-up meeting, she’s mysteriously teleported with Ghastek to a water-filled prison and then things really spiral out of control.
For me, pacing was one of the biggest troubles of the book. The beginning filler and the slow start lead to action-packed investigative scenes which mostly alternate from pauses to explosive action. In theory, pauses are appropriate for planning the explosive action, but it feels more like a campfire that’s having a hard time catching. Story drags again when Kate is imprisoned. The first time I read it, the prison scene was an eye-rolling waste of time that mostly served to reinforce sentiment the series reader already knows. But in terms of a conclusion book, time spent on reflection makes sense, as well as those moments of emotional intimacy with a nominal enemy.
After rescue (seriously, how can that be a spoiler?), the action accelerates, and even if it’s still along the lines of “how will we escape?” it proves engaging. Nice character interaction, interesting world reveals, family revelations and psychedelic architecture all contribute to the kind of action, dialogue and inventiveness that made me a fan of the series. The ending was absolutely perfect, both in structure of the story and in emotional tone. I could see how the dramatic arc could have ended at this point and would have found it satisfying. However, I’m sincerely glad the Andrews are continuing the series, because I think there’s so much more of their interesting world to visit.
Three star beginning, five star ending. Averages, you know?